Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rhea Miller (front) tosses an empty box away as part of a United Way-organized activity as she fills boxes with food on Nov. 3, 2010. Ellie and Ed Tom (left and right rear) help. (J. Tyler Klassen/The Elkhart Truth)
United Way of Elkhart Co. to grant $1.09 million for education, income and health initiatives
Posted on Feb. 26, 2014 at 6:56 p.m.

ELKHART — The United Way of Elkhart County plans to grant $1.09 million to an array of agencies here in 2014, focused on agencies and programs that zero in on education, income and health needs.

In a shift from previous years, the United Way didn't identify each of the likely recipients of funding, instead reporting the overall amount earmarked for each of the three broad areas of focus. Education initiatives will get $335,000 in all, health-related proposals will get $362,000 and income initiatives, such as skills training programs to help workers to get better-paying jobs, will get $393,000.

The names of individual recipient agencies, not yet publicly available, will probably start trickling out in coming weeks, United Way Vice President of Community Impact Darren Bickel said Wednesday, Feb. 26, shortly after the release of the total dollar amount. He said some recipient agencies have been identified while others have yet to be selected by United Way volunteers handling the task.

The attention to categories of funding rather than individual agencies aims to increase the focus on the overall influence of United Way distributions and maximize the impact of the funding, Bickel said. Whatever the case, he doesn't foresee any "appreciable shifts" in how funds are doled out compared to previous years. United Way distributed around $1.1 million in 2013.

"United Way's continuing focus is to help working families connect with the opportunities for a good life — a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement and good health," the agency said in a statement Wednesday.

The education initiatives focus on preparing children for kindergarten, assuring that kids start fourth grade with grade-level reading skills and making sure middle school students receive proper preparation for high school. "Community volunteering in schools and after-school learning programs remain some of United Way's major points of emphasis," said the statement.

The income initiatives aim to help people improve their job skills, effectively manage their money and make sure they have access to food and shelter in a crisis. "Helping people earn more and save more is at the hear of United Way's strategy," the agency said.

The health initiatives focus on cancer, developmental disabilities, prescription assistance and older adult initiatives. The agency "is dedicated to helping families deal with difficult health diagnoses."

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit his Facebook page.